Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Breeding Decisions

Gargoyle is an outcrossed female I brought in as a kitten.  Her registered name is Grey Ghost (a fishing fly of course), but Kelsey came up with the call name of Gargoyle.  Although she's not exceptional as far as the Maine Coon standard is considered, she has the qualities of extreme affection toward humans, smoke tortie coloring masking a mackeral pattern (a new pattern in my house, my other cats are classic tabbies), and a great chin.  Since she was also a trade from another breeder, she was more or less free. 

The problem with Gargoyle is that from an early age, she asserted herself by peeing in the wrong place.  I've mentioned before that intact females can be worse than males; this cat is what we in the field refer to as a Hoser with a capital H.  If I asked her, "Hey Gargoyle!  Did you do this on the wall?", she'd respond with, "Not only that, but I can demonstrate my hosing skills right now against this wall."  I think she was a firefighter in her previous life.  Having multiple females sometimes leads to pissing contests (major pun intended) between a couple of them.  Most females are not hosers.  Some will only spray when they are in heat.  All my females stop the unwanted behavior while nursing kittens.  Sometimes the hormonal effect of giving birth straightens them out enough that they change behaviors post-partum and behave themselves even after their kittens are weaned.  This is what I've been hoping for with Gargoyle.  If she goes back to her hosing behavior, then Gargoyle will be spayed and re-homed, hopefully with one of her kittens.  Don't worry, I've placed many horrible hosers who are completely reformed after losing their hormonal influences and changing environments.  Retired breeders make great pets, even if they weren't the easiest to live with while breeding.

Fortunately, I have a built-in cage in our basement with access via catdoor to an enclosed outdoor run to confine any cats with bad aim.  This is where Miss Piss has been living until recently.  Gargoyle had been bred to Bugger and was due.  I brought her into our bedroom and put her up in the 2-level birthing cage on Day 62 of her gestation.  Although she meowed a lot, she never peed anywhere inappropriate.  On Saturday morning, Day 64, she showed no signs of an impending labor.  I had to take Kelsey to an appointment an hour away and had plans to leave at 8:30 am.  At 8:20, I was ironing Kelsey's shirt on my bed when I glanced up at Gargoyle.  Crap.  She was panting heavily.  Not feeling comfortable being gone potentially for the next 4 hours while Gargoyle was in early labor, I rescheduled Kelsey's appointment, citing a "family emergency".  We waited.  And waited.  And Gargoyle panted.  And we waited some more.  By that afternoon, the husband and the grandkids were around.  I took Kelsey and Amanda to run some errands, leaving "the boys" in charge. 

Finally, at 8:30 pm, a full 12 hours after my watch began, I saw a red tail and a two hind legs appear.  I knew just by the color that this was a male kitten.  Approximately 1/3 of all kitten births are breech, but I always hope for the cat's sake that it won't be the first kitten out.  It's a lot harder when the kitten isn't as aerodynamic as it would be head first and the mother isn't stretched out "down there" yet.  Sure enough, this kitten was not only breech, but the sac was broken already so the natural lubrication was gone.  I grabbed a clean washcloth so I could get a grip and gently pulled on the legs and tail (NEVER pull on a tail by itself unless you want to risk detaching it from the kitten) with her contractions.  We got the hips out but then the belly was stuck.  Next push.  Just the head was left.  It didn't want to come out.  Gargoyle cried in distress and pain, I held my breath and hoped that he would survive the ordeal and pulled again, certain that this kitten was going to have a giraffe neck.  Out the kitten came, 4.5 ounces, a good size for such a small mom and none the worse for his ordeal.  Amanda was excited that she was getting to watch the birth.  Kelsey pretended it was old hat for her, but there is always something intriguing about what the next kitten is going to look like.

Gargoyle relaxed, cleaned up her new prize and I started calling my friends to let them know we finally had one.  An hour and a half later, she delivered a stillborn kitten with gastroschism.  Gastroschism is the medical term for the reality we breeders call "guts out".  The stomach area is the last to close up in the development of mammals and sometimes it doesn't always work.  I've seen it occasionally and it's not pretty.  At least this one wasn't alive.  When they're born alive with gastroschism, it breaks your heart as in most cases, it's so bad there's nothing you can do for them.  My vet advised me long ago that in the event a kitten was born that was obviously not "meant to be" and a vet wasn't readily available to euthanize (cats are notorious for delivering at 2 am), to humanely suffocate the kitten by putting it in a zip-lock baggie in the freezer.  Nauseating I know, but it essentially puts the kitten to sleep.  Fortunately, Jay has been around the few times this has happened to take care of the deed, something I'm for which I'm grateful.  So the second kitten was disappointing and created more anxiety about the next arrival, which fortunately came almost immediately. 

This one looked black.  After all these years, did Bugger carry the gene for solid colors (no tabby stripes)?  Nope, I saw the tell-tale white eye-liner which gives away the tabby pattern.  It was a boy, probably a silver, maybe a brown tabby, but very dark and apparently healthy.  After he dried, I could discern a mackeral tabby pattern on his sides, the first I've ever had born in my house.  The silver boy was 3.5 ounces, smaller than his brother, but still within the normal range for a newborn Maine Coon. 

Worth mentioning is the discovery that Gargoyle has eleven nipples.  The standard number for a cat is eight, but in-between the normally spaced nipples, I found three "mini-nips".  I've had one cat before who had nine and heard about a Persian with 18 once, so it's not that rare.  Good thing cats don't have to be fitted for bras.

After all this, we have two new kittens in the house.  Right now I'm thinking I'll let both go as pets instead of keeping one.  It may be a different decision had one been a girl.  I had guessed that Gargoyle would have 3-4 kittens; she delivered three so I was pretty accurate.  Kelsey and Amanda couldn't come up with call names so I researched suggestions for this small litter.  On the internet I rediscovered an animated TV show "Gargoyles" shown in the 90's based upon a comic book.  My son Tyler used to watch it.  I chose names of two of the characters, but since the names are French, I had to go with two I could pronounce easily.  The red classic boy is Behemoth and the silver/brown mackeral boy is Cyrano (and no, he doesn't have a big nose for those of you familiar with Cyrano de Bergerac). 

Gargoyle's First (and last?) Litter
Gargoyle and her boys are doing extremely well. I've opened the cage door at the top so she can get out for a mommy break if she wants.  She is using the litterbox like she never had a problem.  True to the nature of a good mom, Gargoyle doesn't want to leave her kittens for more than a minute, if at all.  Nothing would make me happier than for Gargoyle to change her hosing ways so I can keep her in the breeding program as she is unrelated to any of my other cats.

Meanwhile, after a kitten hiatus during the summer, we finally have new babies to watch grow from little rodent-type things to adorable fuzzy kittens.  The Circle of Life and all that.  Kind of neat when it all works out right.

1 comment:

  1. The red classic boy is Behemoth and the silver/brown mackeral boy is Cyrano

    At least you avoided naming them things like Garboy or Garguy or Garbro.